July 26, 2011

Violence, Destruction, and Complicity: Mining Practices that Bring your Bling

By Gina Kundan

Members of Ananya Dance Theatre began researching Gold and presenting findings in January 2011.

The first topic: Gold & The Democratic Republic of Congo was presented by former dancer Sherie Apungu. The northeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) holds hundreds of mines with a seemingly unlimited supply of gold. Are the miners and their supporting communities benefiting from these riches? Hardly. As one Congolese miner described it: “We are cursed because of our gold.  All we do is suffer.  There is no benefit to us.”   In fact, the discovery of the Congolese gold has created decades of violence and instability in the region, with various armed political factions battling for power and control.

The miners have no choice but to continue working regardless of who is in charge—resistance of any kind is met with torture, rape, and murder— according to Human Rights Watch, “more than sixty thousand people have died due to direct violence in this part of Congo alone.” Miners are forced to work in horrific conditions with a blatant disregard for safe mining practices.

Multinational corporations continue to forge partnerships and support political leaders to ensure continued profit from the region while also ensuring continued violence.  Human Rights Watch mentions AngloGold Ashanti—one of the world’s largest gold producers—a company that publicly boasts a commitment to corporate social responsibility while patently ignoring the human rights violations that keep productions flowing.

Similar situations can be found virtually anywhere gold has been discovered. Dancer Brittany Radke presented her research on Gold in Chile, a country that was discovered as a result of the Spanish quest for gold. Gold mining in Chile began in the late 16th century, but recent satellite technology has led to the discovery of gold deposits beneath glaciers in the Andes Mountains. Mining of this gold has been linked to rapid glacial melt and is negatively impacting local farmers and poisoning the local water supply.

Worldwide the desire to attain gold by any means seemingly outweighs the profoundly negative impact gold mining practices have on individuals and the environment.  In the next issue, I will share what we’ve learned about human desire and discuss the sex work industry in gold mining communities.